Published on Saturday, 11 September 2010 11:10
Written by Bruce Gale
Source of funds
Consistency with other policies
Music is a wonderful thing. In Medan, BBJ gives band members a sense of belonging and a chance to be part of a close knit group of friends who share the same faith. But there are limits to what music can do. Like poor people everywhere else in the world, band members need to find a steady job and be encouraged to make a better life for themselves.
In Medan, we have always had problems finding jobs for band members who leave the Boys Home at 18 but still wish to stay in the city and remain members of BBJ. This article is about how we are planning to address this problem. I also explain how the project fits in with other policies we have adopted over the years.
The amplifier project began late late last year (2009), when Major Dalenteng became the Home's new supervisor. He suggested that we check out the possibility of assembling amplifiers, pointing out that almost all the necessary parts were readily available in the city. A check of the prices in local shops quickly convinced us that he was right. Anyone who could put amplifiers together cheaply could make a reasonable living.
Not only that, but in Major Dalenteng we had the perfect teacher. Having established the Salvation Army's radio station in Palu, Central Sulawesi, in 2009, he certainly had the necessary skills. When I visited Medan in March 2010 he showed me a prototype – a fully working amplifier assembled entirely from parts purchased in Medan!
I was hooked and immediately promised to find the necessary funds to get the project off the ground.
Source of funds
At first, I intended to find some way of paying for it all myself, cutting back on my support for the band in order to come up with the funds. But on my return to Singapore I soon found that this was not necessary.
Hearing about the project from Major Pascoe at the Salvation Army's William Booth corps in Singapore, an anonymous donor handed over S$5,000 (US$3,700).
I gave S$4,000 (Rp 26 million) of this to Major Dalenteng in two tranches during my regular visits to Medan (in May and August 2010) of Rp 13 million each. So far, Rp 15,330,900 has been spent on equipment. The Major has also used some of the money provided to purchase Indonesian-language textbooks on electronics. Cash remaining with Major Dalenteng totals Rp 10,669,100. A detailed report (including original receipts) has been prepared and handed to the donor through Major Pascoe. Updates will be given to the donor (and published on this website) as the work proceeds.
A small workshop has been set up at the Boys Home in a room adjoining the our recently created music studio for the band. The workshop also doubles as a classroom for electronics lessons.
After a long period of preparation, Major Dalentang began regular classes on Saturday morning August 21, 2010. I also spoke to several of of the boys afterwards to try to gauge the level of commitment. One boy I asked said he found the subject difficult but very interesting. Major Dalenteng told me that he found them to be quick learners.
Within about six months, our hope is that the boys will not only be able to assemble and repair amplifiers, but also speakers.
Eventually, we intend to manufacture our own printed circuit boards in order to cut down on the cost of production. We have to purchase some additional equipment for this, but the cash in hand appears to be sufficient. Apparently, the technology is much simpler than I thought.
Major Dalenteng is quite capable technically. His track record in setting up the Salvation Army's radio station in Palu (Central Sulawesi) speaks for itself. He is also a fine artist – I have seen some of his paintings – and a good keyboard player. He picks up new skills quickly. For example, he wants to write jazz music for brass, guitar and drums. His lack of knowledge about peculiarities of Salvation Army brass bands has so far prevented this. But after I spent an hour or so explaining some of the scoring issues involved, he caught on very quickly.
One of the older boys commented to me that Major Dalentang was a corps officer (church pastor) who practices what he preaches from the pulpit. After watching him interact with the boys, and even get down on his hands and knees to help us renovate the band's music studio when I was there in August, I find I must agree. His enthusiasm for the amplifier project is also very obvious.
Originally we hoped to use some of the money provded by the donor to send the young men to a local university or technical institution to study electronics. But a search around Medan revealed no suitable courses.
Therefore, I handed over the remaining S$1,000 (of the original S$5,000) to Major Dalentang to help subsidise the fees of several young men who began computer classes in September 2010.
All the participants (former Boys Home members) already have jobs and (following BBJ policy – see below) would normally be expected to pay the total cost themselves. But this is a great strain on their limited incomes.
The money has been allocated to each boy as a subsidy – not the full cost – of these computer lessons.
Consistency with other policies
The computer project referred to above is part of a wider education policy that we pursue in BBJ. After they obtain a job, band members are strongly encouraged to pursue further studies at a local university or technical college of their choice using their own money.
We already have two graduates. Earlier in August this year, Bandmaster Danias Karosekali was awarded a degree in accounting from a local university after about six years of part time study. He graduated with honours. The other graduate has a degree in law and is currently working for the provincial government in Aceh. Inspired by these examples, several other band members are due to graduate next year.
The internationally recognised music examinations band members took in 2009 and 2010 (see the examinations section of this website) are also meant to give participants a sense of achievement and build their self-confidence. The only difference is that instruction is free and I pay the examination fees.
The amplifier project is an extension of these policies. Not only does it aim to give these young men a useful skill, it will also provide them with the financial means to pursue their studies in other areas if they so desire.